Wednesday, 3 January 2018
For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:8
Paul now makes a metaphor for his reader to consider. He brings in the thought of “bodily exercise.” The words are sōmatikē gymnasia. We could think of “gymnastics for the body.” It means the same today as it did then – physical training, physical exercise, boxing, racing, and so on. He says that it “profits a little.” The Greek word can mean “a small amount,” or “for a short period of time,” and both are probably on Paul’s mind. What he is referring to is the ascetic practices referred to in verse 3, meaning abstention from certain foods, and forbidding to marry.
Just as physical exercise profits for a very short amount of time, and then man ages, sags, weakens, and dies (think of the once strong and robust Arnold Schwarzenegger), so these practices – which seem to promise abundant spiritual health – will prove to be vain and pointless. They will be swept away in due time. Further, they actually put up a barrier between God and man. It is God who has done all of the work needed to reconcile us to Himself through Jesus Christ. In pursuing these “gymnastics,” we feel that we are meriting His favor on our own. Thus, it is a slap in His face concerning what He has accomplished. “That’s OK God, You did Your best in Jesus, but I will improve upon that.”
Paul then says, “but godliness is profitable for all things.” The ascetics profit themselves (or so they think), but their supposed piety does nothing for anyone or anything outside of themselves. There is no true gain of any kind to be realized in anything they do. However, godliness (see the “mystery of godliness in 1 Timothy 3:16) is profitable for all, and in all ways. Anyone who hears of Christ is profited when he acts upon the words. Anyone who tells of Christ is profited when he speaks the words. The world is made safer through those who come to Christ. The world is brought closer to the day when Christ comes for His church when godliness is shared. On and on, there is only benefit (great gain) to be found in godliness. It is not a self-centered thing, but an outwardly-directed thing.
It is godliness which Paul then says is the message, “having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” True and purposeful life in this earthly existence is found in knowing Christ. The nations of the world which are truly Christ-centered will pursue peace. The kings in authority who have bowed to Christ will bring about peace in their kingdoms. The benefits are to be found in all ways in the life that now is. And they are also to be found in the life “which is to come.”
Heaven’s doors are opened through the godliness that Paul has written about. Peace with God is restored through it. Eternal abundance, broadness of space, joy to its fullest extent, and on and on and on, will be realized for all of eternity for those who receive the godliness which is the Person of Jesus Christ – His life, and His work. This is what is “profitable for all things.”
Life application: Do you want to be profited in all ways? Do you want the highest joy, the greatest reward, and the fullest measure of blessing? Then come to Christ. Put away your gymnastics of faith, and come to the godliness of faith, formed and perfected, in the Person and work of Jesus Christ the Lord.
Glorious God Almighty! You have shown us what is truly profitable. We can exercise our bodies, but we will grow old and we will sag and weaken. Eventually we will die. We can also abstain from certain foods in order to hopefully be “more holy” in the eyes of others, but this helps no one other than ourselves. What Your words ask us to do is to seek true godliness by pursuing Christ, sharing Christ, and living for Christ. In this, there is great gain, both now in this temporary world and in the ages to come as well. Help us to be wise, and to pursue this true godliness with all of our hearts and minds. Amen.